The Nigerian political party system is like no other in the world, unique in its lack of ideological foundation, its lack of purposeful direction for the political system, bereft of practical solutions, strategies, and insights capable of repositioning the economy and stabilizing the social stream of the nation. To complicate the party system’s abysmal record since the advent of politics in Nigeria is the fact that it is run by politically illiterate individuals that are chiefly parochial, demagoguery and populist in their approach to politics,
The nation’s political system has suffered ship-wreck as a result of decades of failure by the political parties in Nigeria to project visionary manifestos or concrete ideologies as either the governing party or the party in opposition. All that has been and is still is, is a congregation of political entrepreneurs buried neck-deep in their self-interests like ostriches in shame for failing to protect her young. The operations of political parties in Nigeria are simply a comedy show with high media rating as it fumbles and jumbles non-stop with a discolored cast of political comedians poking their noses at a discombobulated populace who applaud them based on sentiments than rationale.
We cannot as a nation (perhaps the nation may try to forget) or individuals forget the disgusting performances of Nigeria’s political parties from independence and such shambolic antecedents are extant today in the current generation of political parties present in our body polity. Their fractious, factious, disunited nature is still visible; their tribal, ethnic and homogenous nature is intact and added to that is an avant-garde lust, the new normal in the modern political system where the mighty, the wealthy and powerful control the reins of political parties and Nigeria’s is the worse for it.
From the first republic to the forth now running Nigeria has been cumbered with a multi-layered political party structure that has only served to exacerbate their underperformance and incompetence in changing the fortunes of the nation right from the cloak of independence. And no doubt the multi-party structure arises from the multi-ethnic nature of Nigeria thus the parties evolved from ethnic foundations rather than from a national platform, promoting not the national interest but tribal and ethnic interests which ultimately impacted negatively on the unity, progress and prosperity of Nigeria, though, this was more obvious in the first and second republics but is not completely absent in the present crop of parties squaring up in Nigeria’s “Osusu” political space.
In the first republic, Nigeria paraded politically disconnected groups that referred to themselves as political parties but were more of ethnic gatherings that never had the interests of Nigeria permanently at heart. This republic that saw the light dawn on Nigeria as an independent nation from 1960-1966 had twenty-two (22) parties jostling for political control with four of them as the leading parties at that time. Such political parties as Action Group AG, National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons NCNC, Northern Elements Progressive Union NEPU and Nigeria National Democratic Party NNDP, but of course, they were those that did not mask their ethnic roots such as Kano People’s Party KPP, Igbira Tribal Union ITU, and Lagos State United Front LSUF, etc. Such were the diverse cast of political parties operating in Nigeria’s first republic that at the end of the day all they bestowed on the country’s political structure was political rifts, corruption, conflicts, and socioeconomic retardation.
The second republic which spanned from 1979-1983 witnessed a reduction in political associations seeking political control of the nation. They were seven in number and all seemingly active in the political scene. And in their common sense thinking to appear and wear a national outlook the parties discarded their first republic identity and sort to transform by nomenclature alteration and not by character orientation.
The third republic’s political life was aborted by the dictatorship of the military that from their politically inept knowledge midwife seven political parties that only danced to the tune the piper played. The National Republican Convention NR and Social Democratic Party SDP were the child of circumstances brought to life by Nigeria’s military smart alecks from 1987-1993 and from 1996-1998 other parties that were not the direct creation of the military but similarly played by the rules created by them cropped up such as the National Democratic Coalition NADECO, Committee of National Consensus CNC, Democratic Party of Nigeria DPN, National Centre Party of Nigeria NCPN Justice Party JP, altogether, these seven political creations existed for the pleasure of the military and subsequently ceased when the militocratic show expired. They had no impact and made no impact on the political scene
The politics of the fourth republic could best be described as a jamboree of political parties. For indeed no writer or researcher will love to waste precious time in naming the catalog of political parties in today’s Nigeria from 1999-to date unless you are either compiling an encyclopedia or one of Wikipedia. In the last elections of 2016, there were over one hundred registered political parties that made an appearance on the ballot paper and observers only had to wonder about Nigeria’s political juggernaut known by size and not by any positive development.
Among the lot, only two parties are nationally known and could have become house-hold names by now given their widespread reach across the nation, the People’s Democratic Party PDP, that had the lion share of sixteen years of uninterrupted democratic dispensation and the All Progressive Congress APC completing a second term of eight years in power. However, the disconcerting and discourteous feelings towards Nigeria’s political parties by the literate populace could stem from the truth that from 1960 to date the political party system in Nigeria as it is structured-on ethnic and money politics-has failed the political system, the nation, and the people.
Historically minded Nigerians will hardly look past the current failures of the parties without remembering those same antecedents displayed by the political parties today were obvious in the political parties from independence. Highly visible and irresolvable conflicts, personal interests that overshadow party interests tearing the party apart, irreconcilable differences gnawing at the soul of the party thereby weakening it foundation and big money taking over the control of political parties were the highest bidders clinches the available tickets to run for political offices in an election. Political parties are run by godfathers who select who to occupy political offices and money is the language political parties hear and the basis on which it operates. Two major ingredients that are absent from sane political party cultures, but unfortunately are the pillars of Nigeria’s political parties are money and godfathers.
The predominant political parties in Nigeria’s political scene the PDP and the APC are anything but ideal political parties watching their coming and going for the past twenty years. These parties have come to symbolize the decadence that the nation is, falling short of everything that makes a party worthy to hold the reins of government to administer a country by building a strong and working economy, providing badly needed infrastructures for the development of the country and maintaining a stable social order free of insecurity, hunger, and poverty and a reduction in crime through the provision of jobs and social amenities to help the citizen realize he or her dream and the development of the individual in a safe environment.
Instead, Nigeria’s political parties, in their very abnormal structure and modus operandi have by themselves created the devastating social conditions that enveloped the nation and her people in dire poverty and insecurity. Political parties whose nature is adverse to the prosperity of the nation’s political system; these are political parties run by visionless so-called politicians that are a danger and threat to the very existence of the citizens whom they have collectively denied access to a good life while they live ostentatious lifestyles with Nigeria’s stolen wealth.
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These two, PDP and APC are a reflection of how political parties have operated in Nigeria since independence, as they managed to contrive, from one political dispensation to another, a nation characterized by hunger, poverty, insecurity, corruption and social instability as witnessed daily in the nation they lead. All Nigerians see daily in the news is the moral vanities of Nigeria’s political parties as their overfed and over wealthy operators or members jostle for power at the federal, state, or local government levels and make unintelligent noises on the media space because they can afford to.
In all their existence no single political party has left indelible marks in the life of the nation, unless we can now consider and cut the Obafemi Awolowo led Action Group the slack for his ingenuity and wisdom in developing the West when his party held sway. Other than that no other regional party, north, south, or east left anything for their people, they were all little tribal parties led by tribal self-interested politicians.
Today political parties in Nigeria are empty sounding boards for political awareness and a gathering of wolves without an atom of love for the country and this isn’t a mere accusation but it is evident by the daily mind-boggling revelations of Nigeria’s political actor’s inappropriate behaviors, the blinding acts of corruption, abuse of power and their overall incapacity to lead intelligently so that good may come to the led. The parties today are morally depraved, politically corrupt, economically deficient, and psychologically absent in mind and though, therefore are incapable of leading the country to economic prosperity and development.
Any political party without an implementable blueprint, sound ideology and a guiding philosophy are right from the start committed to failure for a ship without a navigable compass will be lost for lack of proper direction and Nigeria’s political parties paint perfectly a picture of a ship without direction and so it is a wonder that people wonder why the country is not moving forward with all her natural resources wealth but rather is retrogressing through a high debt burden that is increasing every day, through the importation of fuel for lack of refineries to refine what we produce, through political and systemic corruption draining the soul of the nation away and all such woes masterminded by the political parties in power and opposition.
The wishy-washy character of our political parties is a burden Nigeria will bear unless and until we are determined to build fresh political parties, not in the mold of APC where disgruntled politicians left the opposition to conglomerate, and least, not that of the opposition party that for sixteen whole years was still celebrating with the national treasury leaving the country desolate, but we must start from the foundation to erect political parties that reflect the diversity, political culture, inclusive character intrinsic to its nature and marshal out workable and guiding manifestos such that will guide, direct and lead the party judiciously to achieve her aims and objectives for the nation and people.
While political parties are for all comers, the leadership of these political institutions must be vetted and made sure only those qualified mentally and emotionally stable lead the party. We must not again witness the power tussles in Nigeria’s major parties that are effectively emasculating the internal structures of the parties thereby reducing them to political organs insensitive to the needs of the nation but absorbed in themselves and conflicted.
Nigeria’s political parties have been and are still the biggest disappointment in all of Nigeria’s march to political and economic greatness. Democracy or any system of government for that matter is controlled by the political parties and the one in power exercises authority on the political, economic, and social institutions of the nation and by extension on the lives of the citizens through the policies introduced by it.
In Nigeria, for twenty years democracy has graced her political space and only two parties in a field of over hundred jobbing parties have sat on the throne of power and for all those years have brought Nigeria and her people from bad to worse and going onto worst due to the lack of political party institutions like the American Republic or Democratic parties and men and women loyal to the constitution, dedicated to promoting the rule of law and committed to leading honestly. Until Nigerians want a change, we shall continue to accept and be shoved down our throat the idiotic show of politics given to us by our political party structures lacking in vision and imagination.